San Diego's 14 best attractions

From a world-famous zoo to top-notch museums, these expert-selected spots are the best of San Diego.

by Michael Carl Budd

Sunny San Diego boasts miles of beautiful beaches, but the city has so much more to offer than just sun and sand.  From spectacular science museums exploring science and art to animal attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and the Birch Aquarium there's something for everyone.  A fan of history or the outdoors?  Can't-miss historic sites and numerous parks make the list too.  

San Diego Zoo 96

2929 Zoo Drive

The expansive “habitats” include a tropical rainforest filled with gorillas, a recreated Arctic tundra with polar bears and reindeer, and a Giant Panda Research Station.

- Travel + Leisure

Maritime Museum of San Diego 91

1492 N Harbor Dr

Three historic ships, two replicas, a submarine and their onboard exhibits form the core of a museum dedicated to the city's maritime history.

- Michelin Guide

SeaWorld San Diego 89

500 SeaWorld Drive

This waterfront attraction mixes entertainment and education in a venue designed to heighten awareness of conservation issues.

- Michelin Guide

San Diego Museum of Art 88

1450 El Prado

The collection here totals more than 12,000 objects, with particular strengths in Renaissance, Baroque, Asian and American art.

- Michelin Guide

Balboa Park 87

1549 El Prado

It’s pretty much impossible to get bored at this park.

- Condé Nast Traveler

The galleries show edgy rolling exhibitions and include pieces from their collection of more than 4,000 works by the likes of Robert Irwin and Yoshitomo Nara.

- Concierge

Cabrillo National Monument 90

1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr

This 160-acre preserve marks the site of the first European visit to San Diego, made by 16th-century explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo.

- Fodor's

This folk art museum occupies six galleries on two levels of a building known since 1934 as the House of Charm.

- Michelin Guide

San Diego Air & Space Museum 88

2001 Pan American Plz

The round building at the southern end of the plaza houses an excellent museum with an extensive display of aircrafts – originals, replicas, models and Charles Lindbergh memorabilia.

- Lonely Planet

Birch Aquarium at Scripps 85

2300 Expedition Way

With a glorious setting above La Jolla's coastline, the contemporary Mission-style complex encompasses a state-of-the-art aquarium and the largest museum in the nation devoted solely to oceanography.

- Michelin Guide

The New Children's Museum 92

200 West Island Avenue

The museum is building a state-of-the-art new facility in San Diego's marina district. Projected date of completion is fall 2007.

- Michelin Guide

Mission San Diego de Alcala 89

10818 San Diego Mission Rd

Mission San Diego is the very first Mission built in what is now the state of California and was built in 1769.

- Afar Magazine

San Diego Museum of Man 89

1350 El Prado

The iconic California Building, with its amazing tiled dome and signature bell tower, is where you will find this museum devoted to anthropology.

- Frommer's

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park 87

San Diego Avenue at Twiggs Street

The six square blocks on the site of San Diego's original pueblo are the heart of Old Town.

- Fodor's

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